Breaking news – and something that I can’t quite believe they would do, but the Bishop of Christchurch has announced today that the Anglican Church plans to completely demolish the Cathedral in Christchurch.
Cantabrians, and no doubt others, are in total shock. There is, as yet, no confirmation as to whether it will ever be rebuilt, and if so, in what form – but this seems an extraordinary action to take for a building that is still largely intact – and is such an icon – not just for the church, but for the city and indeed the whole region. What a pathetic, pathetic decision from the Anglican church.
Join the discussion 9 Comments
Kit Miyamoto, a California-based structural engineer and expert in post-earthquake rebuilds, said the decision was ill-judged and that restoration and strengthening was both “feasible and affordable”.
“I know that because we’ve done a thousand jobs like it,” said Miyamoto, who inspected the cathedral in September last year and has recently overseen the restoration of similar structures in Haiti.
Miyamoto, whose roles include being seismic commissioner for the state of California, said the overall scale of demolition in Christchurch, where roughly half the central city structures have come down, was alarming.
Absolutely correct. The scale of destruction in Christchurch is astounding, ill-informed, and completely uncalled for. Look for an extended article on this in the forth-coming Arch Centre newsletter, out next week.
I’m deeply saddened by this unnecessary behaviour. The bishop is speaking of reducing the cathedral down to walls 2-3m high, because it is unsafe, and yet says that she will do so in a careful loving manner, with no wrecking ball. What is the point of that? Once the walls are down to 2m high you may as well take them right away, because all they will be doing then is getting in the way of the the rebuilding of the foundations.
The roof is the thing that is holding it all together – virtually unscathed. If they lifted the roof off in one piece for later reuse, that would make sense. Then they could use sprayed concrete to reinforce the walls – they are only painted plaster on the inside now.
The real problem is that the Bishop wants a new building for the dwindling numbers. She has never expressed any interest in saving the old building since the day of the first quake – she just sees the old as doomed, and her chance to create a new cathedral.
I think you have enough trouble convincing people to spend long enough in churches today, without ‘sprayed concrete’ as the only thing holding those stones together. I am sure there are better ways of doing it, but probably more obtrusive.
My take is that we should find a way of celebrating an obtrusive reconstruction/strengthening aesthetic. Heritagists be damned…
Personally, I don’t see what the fuss is about – to me it is a pretty ordinary building. I much prefer the grand Basilica around the corner (which we hear alomst nothing about). But this certainly isn’t about me or me aesthetic preferences, or about commentators like me who have no vested interest in Chch as a ‘place’. We have our own issues to address here in this city…
You can find the Bishop’s pov expressed here: http://www.kiwiblog.co.nz/2012/03/cathedral_to_be_demolished.html
The point that the ‘building’ is not the church is an instructive one. The church is the body of Christ, and more pragmatically, His worshippers – not the pile of stones, timber etc. The actual building is probably more sacred to Chch citizens than to the Christian parish in that respect – not a spiritual value, but one of identity and tradition for the city (of course there are overlaps too). Thus, it is the people of Christchurch who should be leading this discussion, not Bishop Matthews.
What is simply astounding is that the people of Christchurch are being ridden roughshod over by a combination of the clergy, the insurers, and a variety of incompetent bureaucrats. They’re also being helped along by a strong red-neck, anti-heritage, anti-aesthetic group, who have little idea of the inappropriateness of their response.
What is it with trying to save something that was a copy of an outdated spatial organisation that is so out of touch with the needs of the modern church goer. A great opportunity to build something relevant and enchanting for a modern city. The alternative is to let the building slowly crumble to reflect the true nature of religion in the modern secular society.
“The life’s work of two of New Zealand’s most important architects has been largely destroyed in the Canterbury earthquakes. Modernist architect Sir Miles Warren says the destruction of his built legacy is “dismal”, while Peter Beaven is “shattered” by the loss. Christchurch is renowned for developing a distinctive form of modernist architecture in the 1950s, 60s and 70s.
Warren and Beaven were two of the leading exponents of what became known as the Christchurch School, designing many groundbreaking buildings that have now been lost. Beaven lost the SBS building and the Holiday Inn building in central Christchurch, among others. Warren’s major developments in the city included the Canterbury Savings Bank and the Crowne Plaza buildings. Beaven lost his central-city office in the February quake and has moved to Blenheim.
“I feel shattered really. It is just a huge, shattering loss,” he said. “I have moved to Blenheim. We couldn’t cope with Christchurch. I just feel profoundly sad at what has happened. We lost the inner city, which was our life, and we lost my office in the Provincial Chambers.
“A great number of the buildings of that period of modernism are in trouble and being pulled down. The whole of Christchurch has been lost anyway. You can’t isolate any particular work. It is not just my buildings; it is the whole Christchurch City character. All those Victorian streets and buildings; it has been torn away from us.”
Warren said he was “very sad” to see so much of his legacy destroyed but hoped that many of his significant buildings could be saved.
“It is dismal to see one after the other come down,” he said. “The Town Hall should absolutely be saved. The auditorium, the James Hay theatre and the central portion can be fixed, but it is now a question of cost. It will almost certainly cost more than the insurance. It could be said it is the most significant building built since the war in New Zealand.”
Warren said city councillors would consider the future of the building next month. He was hopeful about the future of the Christchurch Central Library.
“The future of the building is only uncertain because of the Farmers building alongside that has to come down. Otherwise, I have heard it is OK,” he said. “A library is the heaviest load you can have in a modern building, so it was a very strong structure.”
Architectural historian Jessica Halliday said the loss of so many modernist buildings was “devastating”. She said post-war Christchurch architects were “the most important generation since Benjamin Mountfort”, the 19th-century architect who designed the Canterbury Museum and Canterbury College and supervised the building of Christ Church Cathedral.
“From my point of view, it is devastating. It is a significant cultural loss,” she said.
“Too often, architecture is seen as real estate and property, but it is a cultural product. All of these buildings that we have lost, they are our history and have informed our identity and our understanding of what it is to be Christchurch.
“If we lose the Town Hall, that will be abominable. It is one of the most important buildings in the country. We should all stand up and say we want to keep it. It could be an intergenerational project. We should take a long view with this.”
The chairman of heritage campaign group Iconic, Ian Lochhead, said the loss of a whole generation of modernist buildings was a “tragedy”.
“It must be terribly hard to see what you would have regarded as your legacy to the city being systematically taken apart. You have to feel for them,” he said. “It is incredibly unfortunate, not just for Christchurch and Canterbury, but for New Zealand’s architectural heritage. There will be a really big gap.”
Who elects the symbol of a city is its citzens. It has little to do with faith, taste or fashion. An architectural symbol is something that gives people a feeling of belonging, of identity. An architect should be atuned with the people of a specific place (town, city, country) to be able to identify and understand the necessity of such symbol and not to mess with such things. Even willed by good intentions we destroyed many buildings in name of functionality, modernity, progress and ‘change’. Chch cathedral is certanly the most important symbol of the city. Doesn’t matter if the catholic cathedral was grander, or a modernist building more tastefull – the people of Chch identify themselves with the cathedral. As architects we shoukd help them to re-aquire something meanful for their identity as citzens. I think that Chch needs this now more then ever.
March 11th, 2012 at 1:46 am
Christchurch and beyond….
I submit my latest click-raft blog entry in response ..